Music and stringed instruments are no novelty to Avon Hansen-Beadle. She met her sax-playing husband while playing guitar in a band and both their sons play guitar and bass, but she could see that there was something a bit different about ukuleles and their players. A little bit quirky, a little bit interesting, the wee ‘jumping flea’ instrument seemed to compliment Avon’s years of teaching music, but in a much easier format, and she was keen to try it. It was a perfect fit, so much so that Avon now suffers from Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome and has five (shhh! maybe it’s six) of the cheerful, cheeky sounding instruments. Her affection for the ukulele led her to become the only woman in Aotearoa/New Zealand to graduate from the James Hill Ukulele Teacher Initiative, a three-year programme by the award-winning Canadian player. Her accreditation means she can now arrange music at all levels in multiple parts, teach a ukulele orchestra, as well as enriching her two ukulele classes – Shorecooleles in Campbells Bay on Tuesday evenings and Hibiscus Ukes in Orewa on a Thursday afternoon. New members are always welcome at both venues. The Tuesday class has been going for 10 years and Avon says the group has had heaps of fun, taking two trips to Hawai’i to perform in a festival and giving a concert onboard a cruise ship, the Pacific Pearl, heading to Napier’s Art Deco festival. A ukulele may be tiny, but it holds enormous promise. One of Avon ’s pupils has dementia and Parkinson’s, but the ukulele has helped unlock his musical memory and adds another dimension to his life. His performance of Duke Ellington’s famous jazz standard, Satin Doll is a huge and impressive achievement for him. There are many satisfying moments in teaching and playing ukulele for Avon, but this result was especially heart-warming. 

And Avon can be sure of more personal heart-warming moments now her two grandchildren have also taken up the strings.